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Specimen Mountain (12,482 feet) is an extinct volcano on the western slope of Rocky Mountain National Park.Photo by Richard F. Fleck
In my ranger days, it was my duty
to lead a group of ten or twelve
straight up the slopes of volcanic
Specimen Mountain above Milner Pass.
Once through the spruce-fir forest
where a sleek black bear feasted
on a wild and dewy strawberry or two,
we entered the Krummholz zone with
tiny trees as old as forest giants below,
and as we chatted, each one trekked at
his own pace onto the tundra green with
brisk winds that helped push us up to the
pumice-stoned saddle where we could view
that ancient crater halved by glacial ice
ten thousand years ago when lava bubbled.
Onward we scampered in gusty winds to
the summit where we peered deep down
to the “Little Yellowstone” far below,
carved by the Rio Colorado through
yellowish-red lava cliffs, dotted with
flocks of bighorn sheep finding their salt.
Coffee in hand, we all took in the distant
but clear Mosquito and Gore Ranges.
Slowly descending steep stony slopes
we entered needled forests once again.
Alas, we stood not too far from our cars,
and miles away from our mountain high
when it came time to say our goodbyes.